Robert Pagan filled a number of roles at New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc., but by the end, he was training supervisors. After Toyota announced it was pulling out of the plant in August, he could see NUMMI was going to close. By that time, he also knew his wife DyAnn would not have her job at a local pre-school when the school year ended in June. They were both essentially cut loose.
So Pagan applied for a job with Toyota, knowing it would take him and his family out of state. Technically, NUMMI was a separate entity from Toyota, a subcontractor, but the Japanese auto maker offered to honor Pagan’s 19 years of service with the company if he stayed on for five years.
"That's the biggest thing - securing our retirement," the 49 year old says. By the end of February, he knew he had a new job in Florence, Kentucky.
"We’re about 20 miles outside of Cincinnati," Pagan says, "So we do have a city, if we need to get to one."
Born and raised in the Bay Area, Robert and DyAnn initially envisioned retiring to Boonville up in Mendocino County and working in a local winery there. The Pagans haven’t sold their home in Castro Valley. They’re renting it out, because they might still come back to retire in five years.
But Florence is growing on them - the people are friendlier, the pace of life is slower, the cost of living is lower - and the headlines coming out of California don’t look so good.
"What’s there to come back to, other than family and friends, you know?" Robert says.
"I wish I could take all my friends and family and bring them here and it would probably be a perfect world for me here," DyAnn says.
Pagan says a number of his friends used the bonus money they got from NUMMI at the end to relocate out of California, and into states where Toyota operates, like Mississippi. GM? Nope.
"General Motors kind of kicked us to the curb. And that’s kind of a sour taste, you know, from my perspective – and actually, I think a lot of the employees there at NUMMI."
DyAnn adds "I'd like to thank Toyota for giving my husband a job."
NUMMI famously proved the Toyota Production System could work in North America. Now Pagan helps spread TPS in Toyota plants throughout North America.
The Pagans' story tops the feature I filed for the California Report this morning:
We found former NUMMI workers for this story using the Public Insight Network. What's your story? We're all eyes. Post it here.